On 31 July 1968, viewers of BBC One met a group of elderly soldiers and a ‘stupid boy’ for the first time. ‘Dad’s Army’ became an instant classic with its gentle humour, nostalgia and pride in the men who gave their all for their country, whatever that all happened to be. The viewing public couldn’t get enough of the show and it eventually ran for nine series as well as three series on the wireless.
As a staple diet of BBC 2’s Saturday evening schedule for many years, there can’t be many people left in the UK who have not watched, enjoyed or at least heard of the show. Over the course of the show there have been many, many iconic characters and moments, none more so than when Jones’ van made its screen debut on 11 September 1969 in the episode The Armoured Might of Lance Corporal Jones, the first in the series to be transmitted in colour. The van continued to make regular appearances until the TV series ended but has now been resurrected and returned to its best so that it could star in the new, big-screen version of Dad’s Army with stars including Sir Tom Courtenay, Toby Jones, Bill Nighy, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Sir Michael Gambon.
The 1935 Ford BB van, had been commandeered by a platoon of Dagenham-based Ford apprentices, under the command of Ford’s heritage vehicle technicians, who have helped repair the running gear of Jack Jones’s famous van – in the same building at Dagenham that it would have left the plant, more than 80 years ago.
The van, belonging to local butcher and home guardsman, Jack Jones, is known for its role as a support vehicle for the Walmington-on-Sea branch of the Home Guard and is now owned by the Dad’s Army Museum in Thetford, Norfolk.
Although it has undertaken extensive cosmetic restoration, Ford, together with a team of its apprentices, was tasked with returning it to operational duty. This included a full engine rebuild, replacement clutch, and new wiring looms.
The Ford BB truck was among the first commercial vehicles produced at the Ford Dagenham site, which started production in 1931. The mechanical repairs were carried out in one of Dagenham’s original buildings, which remains in use today as Ford’s heritage workshop. MotorMartin wonders if those original production line workers ever thought that so much dedicated care and attention would be spent on their van 80 odd years later.
Sharing with MotorMartin, Stuart Wright, from the Dad’s Army Museum in Thetford, said, “This vehicle has a special place in British entertainment history, and is enjoyed by the many visitors to the Dad’s Army museum. It’s fantastic to see the van operational again and we hope it will capture the imagination of the younger visitors less familiar with Dad’s Army, as well as triggering happy memories for the older generations.”
Today the Ford Dagenham estate is responsible for powertrain design and engineering, and manufacturing up to one million diesel engines every year for the global market. Ford Dagenham also plays a vital logistical role in the movement of vehicles and parts through its own internal rail network and jetty as well as on road-going transporters.
Paul Neighbour, Ford Dagenham Engine Plant manager, said “It has been wonderful to see the van back at Dagenham after all these years, and we’re delighted that our apprentices have had the opportunity to get involved with getting such an iconic vehicle back on the road.”
And it’s clear from the pictures that Ford’s apprentices have completed a fantastic job with the restoration work undertaken.
Well done Ford for your help. For fans of the show, check out the movie trailer below. MotorMartin will certainly be popping along to the cinema to revisit the Walmington-on-Sea branch of the Home Guard.
Where will you go?